Monday, February 4, 2008

Archive: Ultimate Amber Conspiracies

I know I said I have other things to do, but this page (retrieved via the wayback machine) made me smile. Much of what I love about Amber is the way the entire universe transformed with every 100 pages of Corwin's tale. You just couldn't ever trust anything you read.
Random as Villain
The first time I read the series, I was really struck by Randoms behavior on the trip to Amber in Nine Princes. Go ahead and reread it, forgetting for the moment that Random is the goodguy who becomes king, and remembering that in Amber everyone is capable of plotting and scheming.
He gives Corwin plenty of odd looks, and asks leading questions. The first time I ever read it, I suspected that Random was actually working for Eric to test and see what level of threat Corwin was. In fact, every time I read it, I get the impression that Random really knew how clueless Corwin was all along, but went with him anyway.
I can see a few different interpretations for this.

For starters, Random could just be naturally quite cautious, and prone to give everyone strange looks and test them. Thats certainly a part of Corwins nature. But when we see Random again a few books later, were never given that impression again. If I were Corwin, this would worry me.
So, maybe Random knew. He could have done detective work on his own, or have been clued in by a sympathetic relative. Maybe originally he planned to lead Corwin in to Amber for some personal motive (to please a relative who wished Corwin dead or controlled, or maybe Randomis a sicko who just wanted to watch Eric & Corwin kill each other). Then, in Arden, he changed his mind, perhaps realized he no longer had reason to hate Corwin, or perhaps realized what kind of sticky situation hed gotten himself into with no obvious exit.

Or, maybe Random was working for Eric. We learn later that Eric didnt really want Corwin dead, just out of the picture so Eric could deal with the damn read-heads. So, maybe Random was just doing recon for Eric, finding out Corwins plans. Later, when Random tries to kill Eric with a crossbow, its just a fake, an act to bring Random to Amber in case Eric needs him in the battles versus Bleys and Fi. But you have to come up with a sneaky reason for Random and Eric wanting Corwin to walk the Rebma pattern. Thats the greatest flaw with this theory. (Maybe they used Corwin to get Random back on good terms with Moire?) And why does the Unicorn then pick Random to be on the throne? (maybe Vialles love has changed him, and the Unicorn can sense this?)

A better idea would be if Random were in cahoots with Fiona and Bleys. Maybe they thought all along that they needed 3 to hold the throne: one king, and two others so the king would never be alone in Amber but the other 2 could take turns vacationing in shadow. So, when Brand turned on them, they recruited Random. Then the grey-skinned guys would be expendables used to make Randoms story believable. Afterall, they burst into the house to be slaughtered instead of cleverly shooting through windows. Odd, especially since they didnt seem to be too brave when Random later recalls the story of them chasing him from Shadow Prismatic. Perhaps his goal was to set Corwin loose to keep Eric from focusing on Randoms allies. When Random shot at Eric, it would be a move to clear the throne for Bleys. But would the Unicorn chose Random? (Fi and Bleys are powerful sorcerors, maybe they could fake it somehow? A shadow of the Unicorn?)
Consider Random and Fiona's proposals to rest of the family in Sign of the Unicorn:
  • "It may be" Random said, "that one of us made the deal but underestimated his allies. The guilty party may now be sweating this thing as much as the rest of us. He may not be in a position to turn things off now, even if he wants to."
  • "We could offer him the opportunity," Fiona said, "to betray his allies to us now. If Julian could be persuaded to leave his throat uncut and the rest of us were willing to do the same, he might come around - if Random's guess is correct. He would not claim the throne, but he was obviously not about to have it before. Is anyone willing to commit himself to a position on this?"
Almost seems like Zelazny himself was favoring this theory, with Random and Fiona trying to get up the nerve to come clean, but later changing their minds because of Julian's attitude.

The idea I like best is that Random worked with Brand. He actually admits that Brand had called him from the tower. And we learn later that Brand had tried to recruit Caine. The grey-skinned folks are actually chasing Random. Random is sure that Corwins got at least some of his memories back, so he figures hell sacrifice Corwin in a move that weakens Eric. Randoms attempt on Erics life was a move of desperation, feeling hed lost everything. He claims to have done it for Corwin's sake, and so Eric spares him. After Eric dies, Random talks everyone into rescuing Brand from the Tower. Sure the Unicorn would never choose such a traitor, but if anyone can fake themselves a Unicorn and message from Oberon, its got to be Brand. (Picture this: Brand falls into the Abyss, kills Dierdre, heals his wounds magically, and shapeshifts into the Unicorn to leave the Abyss. What a campaign it would make! Youd have a secret war as Fi and Bleys try to find proof that Good King Random is a dirty rat, but they dare not actually move against him since Benedict thinks Random is the Unicorns choice!) And is it really that hard to imagine that Random doesnt care two bits about his bastard son and actually perhaps recommended Brand use Martin to erase the Pattern? Note that in the quote above Fiona says to Random "He would not claim the throne, but he was obviously not about to have it before." Is this Zelazny having Fiona reinforce to Random that if he is working for Brand, he doesn't have a chance? Fi suspects, or maybe knows Random's part in things.
I'll explore this theory of Random as the ultimate conspirator a little further, in the section on The Many Deaths of Caine, below.
One more point, in those last two theories, they not only need a shapeshifter to impersonate the Unicorn, they also have to fake Oberon's message.

The Many Deaths of Caine
So, Caine faked his own death, huh? Then shows up at the nick of time to save everyone?
Why are there greyskinned folks at his "fake" death? All wed seen of these was when they chased Random, who later claims they were guarding Brand. But Caine knows enough about them to plant one at his faked death? Have we missed a part of the story?
If thats what happened, what is Caine up to? I guess hes framing either Fi or Bleys for his death. Seems odd though, since apparently no one gets the reference and they all blame Corwin anyway. Is Caine trying to imply Corwin works with Fi and Bleys? Or has Zelazny actually goofed up?
It's curious how this body gets Random talking about freeing Brand. Could Caine be a co-conspirator of Random and Brand? Did he fake his own death to put everyone against Corwin, but at the same time to make sure Random could get Corwin and everyone to rescue Brand?
Or maybe Random (secretly in-league with Brand) killed Caine. He finds a shadow of the greyskinned guys to plant and inspire Corwin to help him free Brand. Then, in The Courts of Chaos, Random produces a shadow of Caine to insure that Brand is shot with magically weakened arrows so Brand can recover, turn into the Unicorn, and step up out of the Abyss to make Random king.
Or the greyskinned guy really kills the real Caine. Perhaps with Fiona and Bleys present too. Later, they realize that theyll be punished for Caines death, so they find a shadow of Caine to bring to the war with them and clear their names. Explains why the next time we see Caine hes at Fionas side and so obediant. Also explains why a single bullet is enough to kill him in the second series: hes just a shadow of himself.
And Zelazny seems to support these ideas, in the quote from Sign of the Unicorn above, Random and Fiona both propose that whoever was allied with Chaos could come forward and gain amnesty for working now in Amber's best interests. Everyone seems to like this except Julian, who specifies that he will only grant mercy if the culprits allied with Chaos are not responsible for Caine's death. As near as I can tell, Fiona (and possibly Random, if you liked those theories) is about to confess, but Julian scares her off.
But why? If she didn't kill Caine, she has nothing to fear. The same for Random. Either: 1)Fiona or Bleys killed Caine; or 2)Random is in league with Fiona and he killed Caine; 3)Fiona (and Random?) think it's possible that Bleys killed Caine without consulting them; or 4)Random is in league with Brand, and he thinks Fiona will frame him for Caine's death and she suspects he'll do the same to her, so both put on a tight lipped poker face. This last idea (number 4) could explain Fiona's telling Random "He (meaning Random and Brand) would not claim the throne, but he was obviously not about to have it before", she's reminding Random that framing her and Bleys still won't be enough to put Random or Brand on the throne.

Here's an odd thought. Julian's supposed to be Caine's confidant. He's the only one that knows Caine is alive. Then why does he add his condition that he can still kill a conspirator who "killed" Caine. It seems counter-productive at that point, turning the family further against each other. Why not drop the condition to get a confession? Is Julian that big a prick that he doesn't see what's happening? Eric is dead. The enemy is near. At this point, if you'll give no chance for the traitor to recant, then you'd be better off jumping up and accusing them so you can be certain Benedict knows who to point his sword at.
If Caine's alive, it doesn't matter what Julian pledges. Caine never gave his word, so he can play assasin. Bearing that in mind, Julian should have backed down to give Fiona the false sense of safety and get a confession. No, there's more going on here. Caine's dead, or doesn't let Julian in on the fake until later, or, hell, if we want to be really paranoid, we can assume Fiona killed both Caine and Julian, replacing them with erratic shadows. (For that matter, maybe Bleys really died on the fall from Kolvir, but Fiona brought a shadow of him to the war too, so none of her brothers would think shes without allies.) Why not? Maybe Brand is dead also, and Fiona orchestrates all these shadowling imposters to clear her name before Benedict and Corwin's eyes.
Other clever little Amber conspiracy theories can be found here.

There's also darker conspiracies on this page, but some may find it shocking and/or distasteful. Consider this fair warning.

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